We were consoling a mutual friend when I first heard my informant use this phrase. The friend’s girlfriend had just broken up with him and she had been his first serious relationship. He was heartbroken and it was a few weeks later. All this friend had talked to us about in the past few weeks was the breakup. We were having a conversation in a larger group and talking about a TV show that had been cancelled even though everyone had loved it. My informant simply said, “All good things end.” Then he looked at our friend and the three of us chuckled a little bit; the rest of the group didn’t know why but we all knew my informant was also talking about our friend’s relationship. Even though he was still depressed about the failure of said relationship, the friend found the situation funny because of how my informant had clearly intended his comment to apply to the relationship as well as the TV show.
My informant can’t remember where he first heard the phrase or if he simply created it, though I have heard it elsewhere as well, but he likes it because by stating this property of the world as a fact, it makes something difficult easier to accept. I agree with that interpretation. People want to hold onto the past, but life keeps changing and everything is ephemeral. It’s one of the hardest aspects of reality to accept. Packaging it up into a succinct expression and serving it to someone makes it seem simpler, more understandable. It shows us that we must accept that the world works this way.